Don't Laugh -- Laughing Gas Does NOT Cause Heart Attacks

I had to read this news story twice to be sure it wasn't a joke.  But it's the truth.  There's been some concern that nitrous oxide -- or what the dentist gives you to put you out, laughing gas -- might be responsible for causing heart attacks during surgery or soon afterward.

Well, sometimes they combine it with anesthesia during surgery, too, because by itself, the drug isn't strong enough to keep patients unconscious.  And previous studies had found that patients with certain genetic abnormalities had a much higher risk of heart attack during or after surgery.

But the good news is, there now doesn't seem to be a connection, according to

Participants in the study reported at received nitrous oxide anesthesia during heart surgery and were divided into two groups -- those who received a vitamin and folic acid to prevent homocystine levels from rising, and those who did not.

Homocystines are an amino acid found in the blood suspected of causing heart attacks.

Researchers also looked at certain genetic factors that can lead to heart attacks and surprisingly, this group had slightly fewer heart attacks -- 3.1% vs. 4.7% -- than the group which did not have the problematic genes.

The patients with the gene aberrations did have higher homocystines than the ones without, but the answer came up "no" in terms of an actual incidence of heart attack, after the nitrous oxide was used.

Earlier, another study had revealed "a persistently higher rate of myocardial infarctions among patients who received nitrous oxide," nearly 60 percent higher than in patients not receiving nitrous oxide, but the risk of death did not change.

This new study now disputes that, finding that there is no correlation between nitrous oxide during surgery, and heart attacks.  So have all the laughing gas you want at the dentist; many love it  (though my one experience of it was of zooming high into the sky like I was on one of those daredevil rides at fairs, which I did not enjoy at all).



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